A “hat and T-shirt” victory is one where the players are given hats and T-shirts for their accomplishment. ESPN columnist and former New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi explained in 2011:
“Division champion hat and T-shirts are always nice. But you hope for three sets during the year—division championship, conference championship and world championship. You wear each hat and T-shirt with pride, but always with caution because if you don’t get the whole set the first two are worthless.”
Bruschi explained his saying many times. ‘’We wanted to finish it today, get our hats and T-shirts, and then move on,” Bruschi said in December 2003.
Wikipedia: Tedy Bruschi
Tedy Lacap Bruschi (/ˈbruːski/; born June 9, 1973) is a former American college and professional football player who was a linebacker in the National Football League (NFL) for thirteen seasons. He played college football for the University of Arizona, and was a two-time consensus All-American. He was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft, and played his entire professional career with the Patriots. Bruschi won three Super Bowl rings and was a two-time All-Pro selection.
New York (NY) Times
PRO FOOTBALL; Patriots Put Title on Ice By Beating the Dolphins
By DAMON HACK
Published: December 8, 2003
Almost immediately, most of the crowd of 45,378 fans grabbed handfuls of snow and began hurling it into the air in unison.
‘’It got me into the holiday spirit,’’ Bruschi said. ‘’We wanted to finish it today, get our hats and T-shirts, and then move on.’’
Google Groups: alt.sports.football.pro.ne-patriots
Management Secrets of the New England Patriots: Vol 1
Only one quote matters to me:
“We don’t lose games where they give you a free t-shirt and hat.” -Tedy Bruschi
Boston (MA) Globe
Patriots clinch AFC East again by beating Jaguars
By Mike Reiss GLOBE STAFF DECEMBER 25, 2006
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A few years ago, linebacker Tedy Bruschi came up with a saying for games like the one the Patriots played yesterday. He called them hat-and-T-shirt contests.
The idea was simple. With a win, players would find championship hats and T-shirts waiting for them in their lockers.
“You know you’ve accomplished something when you have a hat and T-shirt,” Bruschi said as he donned a black AFC East Championship hat following the Patriots’ 24-21 victory over the Jaguars yesterday at Alltel Stadium.
Observations from a hat-and-T-shirt win
Dec 28, 2009
1. Hats and T-shirts for all. Through all the ups and downs of the season, all the struggles—fourth-and-2 in Indianapolis, the Randy Moss debate, character issues, losing on the road, a young defense not holding up against upper-echelon teams—when you walk into the locker room and see free hats and T-shirts, it signifies a great accomplishment in that you’ve won your division. Plenty of teams make the playoffs through the wild card, and when they lose, they have nothing to show for it. But when you win the division, even in a year that maybe hasn’t been as successful as you hoped, it puts a stamp on things and is something you can hang your hat on. What you’re shooting for are three sets of hats and T-shirts—a division championship, a conference championship and a Super Bowl championship. So the Patriots want two more sets of these hats and T-shirts.
One hat/T-shirt set isn’t enough
Dec 19, 2011
Q. Favorite hat and T shirt moment?—VictorM (Massachusetts)
A. Division champion hat and T-shirts are always nice. But you hope for three sets during the year—division championship, conference championship and world championship. You wear each hat and T-shirt with pride, but always with caution because if you don’t get the whole set the first two are worthless.
Tom Brady on clinching AFC East: ‘A great achievement for our team’
Dec 15, 2015
ESPN Staff Writer
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.—Not a bad way to start the day. The New England Patriots woke up Tuesday morning and learned it was a hat-and-t-shirt day, as they are AFC East champions.
The division was clinched with the Miami Dolphins losing to the New York Giants on Monday night.
Former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi once coined the phrase “hat-and-t-shirt” game when the team was playing for some type of championship—division, conference, Super Bowl. Bruschi always looked forward to returning to his locker and seeing championship hats and t-shirts waiting for him, and always hoped for three sets of them each year.